Out of Print: Why We Anime and Manga Fans Can’t Have Nice Things

The “nice things” in question are English-language print magazines dedicated to the hobby…that makes the title extremely awkward, though…

As I stood around at one of my local anime retailers about a month ago, I spotted some catalogues and music magazines sitting on a shelf with “Free! Please take one!” above it. I flipped through them later that day only to find they didn’t advertise any anime…and I realised they never do.

Now, there’s exactly one retailer in my region that advertises manga in their catalogue and none that advertise anime, as far as I know. Even then, the one catalogue had horrendous typos for Fairy Tail S (they called it Fairy Tails (sic)) and also specialised in comics and their associated goods.

Thinking back through what I’ve dug up from the annals of web history, apparently the USA has had the luxury of having several significant print magazines for anime and manga fans – Otaku USA magazine which has since moved to a subscription service plus a website that is somewhat fiddly, for one. Then there’s the print version of Weekly Shonen Jump (telephone book format and all!) which has since become digitised. To go backwards in time, there was apparently a Mixxzine (the old home of Sailor Moon and Parasyte as only Tokyopop could deal with them at the time), Animerica and an American edition of the used-to-be-entirely-Gundam Japanese magazine Newtype (hence the name)…Considering I could even name magazines in the first place was an interesting fact, because that meant there was demand for a niche hobby…once upon a time.

So, why don’t we have print copies of anime and manga magazines anymore? I think it’s one of two reasons:

1) Manga and anime have survived digitised, and that’s where people expect it to stay.

The internet has greatly facilitated the distribution of anime and manga and now with ebooks and digital legal anime distribution formats entering the fray, these old formats are becoming new in the hands of new fans. Many an older fan seems to have a story of creating a fansite on a now-dead host service or collecting pictures for their personal collection, and so magazines about a hot topic of the time were a way to connect. However, how I reach you now compared to how I could have reached you in the past are vastly different thanks to the rapid evolution of technology, and good or bad, this is how niche hobbies survive.

Conversely, magazines are how manga has survived for the most part in Japan, although that’s changing as more manga is experimented with in regards to distribution and creation.

2) The anime boom in the 90s taught businesses it wasn’t profitable to fund printing of magazines they couldn’t sell.

(Besides, if they still can’t sell old copies of bargain bin anime at US anime retailer RightStuf these days, why sell anime magazines?)

The anime boom is often said to be about the late 90s or early 2000s, no later than 2010. Now, if you know anything about anime and manga businesses, they’re often huge banks that require lots of money to keep going, and if there’s anything that’s been the death of many a business, it’s debt.

Why didn’t those magazines I rattled off leave the US? For one thing, the US is a big ol’ place that can’t really service international shipping unless you have the money for it, and in the days of the boom, it must’ve been even harder. For another, the US has a lot of people who the businesses knew were also being serviced with dubbed anime. Even though there were probably anime and manga fans lurking in other parts of the English-speaking world, they were too niche for the USA. Anime, manga and business are an undeniable trio, even in Japan, so if it never leaves US shores, it probably doesn’t work for anyone else.

So, what do you think about the ol’ service of magazine distribution in regards to anime and manga? Are there any anime/manga print magazines I don’t know of/haven’t found out about yet that you could tell me about?




4 thoughts on “Out of Print: Why We Anime and Manga Fans Can’t Have Nice Things

Add yours

  1. I think that both physical and electronic copies of things have a place. Most of my LN collection is ebooks, but for those LNs that i really love, I will buy the physical copy. It helps support the author, and I just love reading a physical book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess if you can’t find one of the older English versions (one which was a physical release), you’ll always have Japan to fall back on…even if you can’t understand the magazine, at least you can say you did it then.


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